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Winter 2019Milnrow Band 150th anniversary

Milnrow Band, one of Britain’s top brass bands, is celebrating an impressive 150 years of bringing music to the borough’s ears.

Made up of around 30 players aged between 17 – 55 years of age, including percussionists and the musical director, Milnrow Band’s roots can be traced back to 1869 when it was originally formed as the St Stephen’s Band.

The band changed its name twice more before World War Two, finally settling on the name of the village in which it is based – Milnrow.

Milnrow remained in the lower sections of the brass band ranks until 1995 when it began a successful competitive drive under the baton of David Morris, at the Greater Metropolitan Police Championships where the band claimed first prize in the fourth section.

Over the next three years, Milnrow progressed to second section and, in 1998, merged with Rochdale Co-op Band. Under the baton of Ian Brownbill, the band went on to take second place at the Nationals and became a first section band six years after the start of its progressive competitive campaign.

Milnrow Band finally became a championship section band in 2006 and has proudly held the position ever since.

The band meets at its band room twice a week for rehearsals, increasing this to three or four times per week in the immediate weeks before a contest. In addition to competitions, the band also performs concerts, at private events and at local parades.

In 2011, Milnrow band joined forces with Mareika Gray and enjoyed a string of successes under her baton. With the assistance of Mareika’s husband, Russell, the band qualified for the finals of the 2013 National Championships for the first time in its long history.

Keen to build on this success, and with Mareika back at the helm, Milnrow won the 2013 Grand Shield, qualifying for the 2013 British Open – where the band competed for five consecutive years – before returning to the Grand Shield in 2017.

Despite this, 2017 is regarded by many as Milnrow Band’s most successful year. Under the direction of Mark Bentham, the band once again qualified for the finals of the National Championships, finishing in tenth place, Milnrow Band’s highest-ever placing at the Royal Albert Hall.

Milnrow Band also won the All England International Masters contest in Kettering, before completing the year with another win at the Rochdale contest, to add to victories in 2014 and 2016.

Towards the end of 2018, Milnrow partnered with current conductor Dennis Hadfield.

To celebrate their 150th anniversary, Milnrow Band will be performing a special concert at Rochdale Town Hall in March 2020, where the band will also launch a special commemorative CD to mark the occasion.

The band will also be playing at this year’s Scottish Open on Saturday 23 November, as part of the Scottish Brass Band Association’s celebratory Festival of Brass 2019, before performing at the annual Christmas Concert at Milnrow Cricket Club on Sunday 22 December.

Band manager, Francis Thewlis said: “We are really proud to be celebrating 150 years of Milnrow Band; it is quite an achievement to reach this milestone, particularly when some brass bands have sadly struggled to survive due to financial pressures and loss of players.

“We are still a village band, and whilst competing at a high level, we are still very much part of the village community, leading the annual carnival, remembrance parade and playing carols all over the village at Christmas.

“Our 150 years of Milnrow Band celebration concert will be on Saturday 21 March 2020 at Rochdale Town Hall and we hope as many people as possible will come and celebrate with us.”